Thompson & Morgan guest Michael on the Chelsea show


Nemesias at the Chelsea Flower ShowIt's that wonderful time of year again for all gardening lovers, as the world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show begins this week.

To celebrate this grand occasion, we caught up with guest Michael Perry from Thompson & Morgan to pick his brains a little bit…

Michael PerryWhat are the key trends to look out for at Chelsea this year?

 As far as I've heard, colour is IN at Chelsea this year, and I'm so pleased!! My own garden is all about big colour blocks. I've got a sparkly purple berberis hedge which I've inter-planted with purple lilies, and it looks fab. I've also got some ground-hugging golden lonicera, again inter-planted with lilies, but this time in vivid orange!

As it's the centenary year of the Chelsea Flower Show, I think exhibitors will be pulling out all the stops, so I'm expecting some phenomenal displays. There's one particular display which I've got the inside track on, which will comprise four separate gardens, each set in a different period.

Hopefully we'll have our futuristic foxgloves in the most recent garden, but of course, it depends on how the weather treats us… It can be hard to get things timed just right for Chelsea displays!

The ban on gnomes has also been lifted this year, so I think we should expect quite a few cheeky appearances of these garden favourites!

You won the Plant of the Year last year at Chelsea. Can you tell us about it?

Thompson & Morgan were absolutely thrilled to be awarded Plant of the Year at last years Chelsea Flower Show! Digitalis 'illumination' is a breeding breakthrough, made by our very own plant breeder. He's a bit like a magician of the plant world. When we see something people need for their garden, we have a go at creating it – and there's no better example than this! 

Firstly, foxglove 'illumination' flowers for six months without pause (usual foxgloves can only spit out a months worth of flowers, if that!) Secondly, it is a hardy perennial (usual foxgloves are biennials, and die out after they flower). Lastly, the colours are some that you have NEVER seen before, like a basket of tropical fruit! 

Those customers who were quick, will have secured their own plants through our recent TSV, so they'll be growing not only the pink, but also new apricot and raspberry this year! We hope to have the collection back on QVC during Chelsea week!

Digitalis Illumination foxglove - Plant of the Year Scented Pinks at the Chelsea Flower Show










How does Chelsea inspire your own gardening?

Despite visitors feeling that the big wow factor gardens might be unachievable in their own back yard, there are always elements that can be taken and worked with. Whether a new way of using plants (for example I loved the bearded iris, ornamental grass and bronze fennel combos a few years back!) or innovative new ways of using materials, there's also plenty of inspiration.

Always try and visit Chelsea with a gardening friend, as you'll find you'll really bounce off each other, and to be honest, I always smile to myself at how competitive gardeners can be – I often walk behind visitors who are itching to name each plant before their companion does!

Do you have any advice on where to start with gardening this year?

My first piece of advice to anyone, beginner or experienced, is 'don't panic'! Too many people think there's a right and wrong way to do things in the garden, but there really isn't. Plants are like people, each one is different and will respond differently to different treatment. So, just dig in (excuse the pun!) and have a go, you'll soon get the hang of it and learn to trust your instincts.

When buying young plants, the market also caters to a range of skill levels. For example larger plants are great for beginners as they'll be big, chunky and often ready to plant straight into the garden. You'll pay a slight premium, but it's worth it for the peace of mind.

But, if you've grown plants before and fancy getting a bit more involved, there's a superb range of more economical plug plants, which are smaller and will need some growing on, but often all you need is a windowsill, or large table in a back bedroom, by a window. You don't always need a greenhouse!

Alliums at the Chelsea Flower Show Mixed flowers at the Chelsea Flower Show

What are your top five gardening tips?

Difficult one, as there's so many little tricks here and there – shortcuts, secrets, hints, tips…!

Firstly, when growing hanging baskets, always plant up the sides of the basket! Too many people don't, and have to wait ages for those plants planted into the top to cascade over and down.

Compost – it's always, always worth paying a premium for the medium you grow in. Some cheaper brands can lack nutrients, and may contain weed seeds, which will plague you come summer!

Pinching – when plants are young, pinch out the growing tip, this will encourage two shoots in place. Do this once more and, hey presto, you have a superb bushy plant, which will give MORE flowers!

Watering – remember that containers need plenty of water. Rain seldom reaches pots, so make sure you're on top of watering. In fact, mix in water-retaining crystals when you plant up, this will help keep moisture in the soil for longer.

Feed – get the best out of your plants by feeding. If you aren't using Richard Jackson's Flower Power already, why not???

You can keep up to date with new plant developments by liking Michael's page at or following him on Twitter @gardening_greek

The Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 21st – 25th. Don't miss our Chelsea themed shows with expert Richard Jackson throughout this week on QVC.

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